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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

ALEXANDER   VON"  HUMBOLDT.                211
ejected   fire  only  from   its  sides.    Without further
danger  Humboldt  and  his companions readied the
"bottom of the funnel-shaped crater, whose depth may
he about 110  feet., and which, like all extinct vol-
canoes,   seems   to  have changed little for centuries.
Indeed, the majestic effect of the deep ravine seemed
to Humboldt to consist more in its height above the
level of the sea, in the desolation of this elevated spot,
which must be 11,500 feet high, and in the extensive
prospect which the summit of the  mountain affords.
Humboldt says,  " experience has taught us that the
tops of the highest mountains rarely offer such fine
prospects as the less  high summits of Vesuvius,,  the
Rigi,   and   the   Puy   de   Dome.      But  the peak   of
Teneriffe unites by its slender form and its locality all
the advantages which less high mountains possess ;
from its summit is seen not only an immense expanse
of ocean,  but also the forests of Teneriffe., and the
inhabited portion of the coast, in such vicinity as is
adapted to produce the  finest contrasts of form and
colour.     As we were sitting on   the   extreme   edge
of the crater we directed our attention to the north-
west, where the coast is studded with   villages and
hamlets.    Below us the mass of exhalations driven
by the   wind formed   the  most varied pictures.     A
monotonous layer of clouds had  been separated   on
several points,  by currents  of air which the heated
earth   sent up front below.    The town  and  port of
Orotava,  with its gardens, vineyards   and ships,   lay
before LIS.    From the height of these solitary regions
our eyes fell on   an   inhabited  world ; we   had the
contrast between the smiling appearance of cultivated
plains and the barren sides of the peak, the steep
precipices covered with loose stones, and the  plains
without a trace  of vegetation.     "We saw the plants
ranged in zones,   according   as   the   warmth of   tiie
atmosphere decreases with the ^scent.JJ
The extreme transparency of the atmosphere per-
mitted the travellers not only to distingmsh villages,
vineyards and gardens, from the top of the peak, but
p 2